MEMPHIS, TN - Elvis Presley pretenders in bespangled jumpsuits and 1950s sportscoats gyrated across a Memphis stage last night for the opening round of the first "tribute artist" contest with an official Graceland blessing.
Finals for the contest sanctioned by Graceland's managment company, Elvis Presley Enterprises, are set for Friday as a weeklong celebration marking the 30th anniversary of Presley's death winds down.
The contest marks a big change for managers of Graceland, Presley's former Memphis residence and the center of a $40 million a year business in all things Elvis.
Since Presley's death on August 16, 1977, Graceland managers have had little to do with the thousands of Elvis impersonators haunting the concert halls and barrooms of the world.
But with a new company, CKX, controlling Elvis Presley Enterprises, that attitude has changed.
Two dozen "artists," Graceland doesn't like "impersonator" - made it to Memphis by winning preliminary contests around the country and abroad.